The Asiatic Colubrina street name is latherleaf. Properly named since it has the ability to produce a lather in water. It is a shrubby member of the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). A low shrub that has long climbing or drooping branches that can reach 20 feet long or more. Leaves are 1 ½ to 5 ½ inches long are egged-shared and easily recognized by their shiny, green upper surface and toothed edges. Attached to stems by slender stalks arranged alternatively along the branches. Small greenish-which flowers at the junctures of the leaf and stem usually occur in July. Their fruits are small capsules which measure less than a ½ inch across and reach maturity as early as September. The capsules are green at first and then become dark brown with age. Each fruit contains three tiny grayish seeds.
The latherleaf native range is from Africa to India, Southeast Asia, Tropical Australia and the Pacific Islands. It only occurs along the eastern and western coastlines of central and southern Florida and includes the Florida Keys.
It is believed to have been carried to Jamaica in the 1850s by East Asian immigrants. At that time, traditional uses included food, medicine, fish poison and as a soap substitute. From Jamaica, it spread to other Caribbean islands, the Yucatan Peninsula and Florida. It was first recorded in Florida in 1937 and in the early 1950s in Everglades National Park.
An ecological threat to Florida’s coastal tropical hardwood forests due to the uniqueness of its habitat and the rarity of its constituent plant species. This includes a number of Florida’s listed threaten and endangered species such as the West Indian mahogany, Florida thatch palm, wild cinnamon, manchineel, prickly-pear, dildo cacti and a number of bromeliads and orchids. If a site is infested by the latherleaf, it will experience a great reduction in biological diversity.
Mechanical and chemical methods are the primary means to control the latherleaf. Various methods of using Garlon®4 and Garlon®3 have been effect and the immediate vicinity will not be impacted by herbicide drift. This must be followed up due to the possibility of resprouting from the rooted portions of the plant. This must be done for years due to the long viability of seeds in the soil. Seedlings and young plants, up to about five feet tall may be hand-pulled as long as their root systems are small and can also be removed.